For the next few weeks GoKunming will publish a series of articles featuring photography by Joseph Francis Charles Rock, the Austrian-American author, geographer, linguist and botanist who explored western China extensively in the 1920s and 30s. We'll begin in southern Yunnan and then make our way north and then west, seeing what caught Rock's fancy as he moved through the countryside.
Rock's photo titles are often extremely brief, so, wherever possible we will include his unamended field notes or parts of corresponding diary entries under each image. Our first destination is Yunnan's Simao (思茅), a city which changed its name to Pu'er (普洱) in an attempt to cash in on a tea craze in 2007. These pictures were taken when Rock visited the region in February and March of 1922. There, he tended to focus on street scenes, merchants in town and the surrounding landscape.
Rock's photo titles and descriptions use a Romanization system that has been discontinued, or that he himself invented. For instance, he often writes 'Simao' as 'Szemao', while in other places names and places are inconsistently spelled. We can forgive him, as the photos provide an amazing view of southwest China as it existed 95 years ago. The photos and text below are published here unaltered, with special thanks to the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library at Harvard University for graciously allowing us to use them. An enormous collection of Joseph Rock photos is available through the university's Visual Information Access web portal as well.
"Part of my escort, four Chinese soldiers photographed on the top ridge between Szemao and Nakoli."
"Village of Muang Hing, Chinese name Puting, Between Szemao and Chin Lung Chiang."
"Street scene in Szemao"
"Lissoo women and men. Danish Mission at Szemao."
"Lissoo women in gala dress."
"Cotton caravan from the Kentung State, being inspected at the Szemao, Yunnan, Custom House."
"The Szemao custom house with a cotton caravan just starting after examination."
"Temple on the heights outside the city wall, east gate of Szemao, Yunnan, China."
"Custom house - Cotton caravan in front."
"North gate of Szemao - The tree to the left is Mai Yom."
"East gate of Szemao."
"Main Street - looking through the south gate."
"View from the room on top of North gate looking towards a temple and the hills."
"View of part of Szemao inner city from the top of South gate."
"Procession of the great Buddha in Szemao."